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Jewish -- Christian Unity

Regarding a most startling pronouncement

By Shlomo Phillips © April 25, 2016

For many Jews, working with Christians on anything is difficult. We can do our jobs when they are around of course, but working with them on specific projects, especially on religious ones or those having to do with Israel, can be very difficult! Where are the lines that we dare not cross lest we be charged with avodha zara (foreign worship)?

When Christians say "Praise the Lord" they intend to praise the same HaShem, God of the Torah, that we do. They often have deeper faith in and love for HaShem than the Jews. How are we to deal with this given their anti-Torah beliefs about His nature and other significant issues?

Many Jews are disturbed that Christians love, support and regularly visit Israel, and yet they continue to do so in ever greater numbers. The Christian community in Israel has more than quadrupled since independence in 1948, from 34,000 to 158,000 in 2012. 2 Most of these Christians are as loyal to Israel as any other Israelis. Indeed, there are more Christian Zionists than Jewish ones! Nevertheless most Jews remain skeptical of the Christians regardless of what they profess.

Aside from anti-Semitism and Christian replacement theology, many Jews are wary of the fact that many evangelical Christians simply want to convert them to Christianity or speed up the Second Coming of Christ. David Brog refutes this claim: Christian Zionists say Jews have no reason to distrust their motives for supporting Israel because they do not believe they can speed up the Second Coming of Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is written that Jesus said about his return, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only." 1
For many Jews, Buddhism is less of an issue. Jewish sects like Jewish Renewal draw heavily from Buddhism and other Eastern religions. For instance consider the book The Jew in the Lotus that describes the visit of former Chabad rabbis turned "BuJew" like Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Many non-Orthodox Jews have no problem infusing their practices with the Buddha Dharma, but then argue that there is just something troubling about Jewish-Christian relations. This seems odd since most Christians are monotheists who intend to worship the God of Israel, while Buddhists are non-theists who believe in ultimate soul extinction. Certainly many of the Christian beliefs are different from ours, but they are theists and a majority of them love Israel.

We all know that back in the day the Church hated us and sought to destroy us. They reviled us, persecuted us, and sent millions of us to our deaths. We know this. But that is not the case today. For many Jewish parents their greatest fear is that their child will convert to Christianity, thus abandoning the eternal Covenant both for themselves and the generations that will emerge from them. This is certainly understandable. We must fight to protect every Jewish soul from the missionary distortions. But this does not make enemies of our friends.

The way Jews have historically dealt with such concerns can be summed up by paraphrasing the Anatevka Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof:

May God bless and keep the Church..... far away from us!

But just as in little Anatevka, the world around us is changing. We no longer live in Jewish shtetls. We don't even live in semi-isolation in cities surrounded by the Gentiles. Today we live in Cyberspace where interactions between diverse people exists as never before in human history! Open up a Facebook page and note that you are Jewish. Soon you will invited by Christians overflowing with questions about Yiddishkeit. "Why do you do this? What do you believe about that? Why don't you accept Jesus?" And more and more frequently, "How can I become a Jew?"

This would have been unthinkable before the current generations! Sure, we also get the missionaries and neo-Nazis threatening us with eternal damnation if we don't "accept Jesus;" we expect that. But most of us are still amazed by the many Christians who express no interest in converting us, who simply wish to declare their love and loyalty to Israel, and for US! Why us? Just because we're Jews. Amazing! We are used to being hated just for being Jews, but to be loved for it? How are we supposed to deal with this!

Some of us accept their contact requests and do what we can to answer their questions, to show gratitude for their stated commitment to Israel and to us. If these people can be believed, if neo-Nazis return and come after us we will have our pick of thousands of of hiding places! Should we reject their offers of friendship and support? Should we refuse to clarify our views when they sincerely ask? Surely not.

I am not naive. Not all of these people are sincere. Many Christians however are seriously seeking the foundation of their Christian faith, and that foundation is first century Judaism. Yeshua/Jesus was a Jewish rabbi (Torah teacher). Sadly, others are seeking to infiltrate these "righteous among the nations" Christians in order to sow seeds of diabolical replacement theology whereby they seek to steal our identity as Jews. This is nothing new. Yeshua's talmid (disciple) John warned about such people:

"I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 3
A Jew must be careful when dealing with Christians! This has always been true. What is different today is the massive number of Christians seeking conversion into Judaism and/or to adopt and adapt our ways to their own observances. This is unique.

Historically the rabbis have made conversion very difficult. After all, we do not believe anyone needs to convert into Judaism to please God. Indeed, observing the seven laws is much easier that observing 613! And beside, being essentially a kind hearted people we are hesitant to put people in a position where the next pogroms, the next Shoah, would engulf them as it will us, may HaShem protect us all, simply for being Jewish. Conversion to Judaism is a very big deal on many levels!

So then, we have historically maintained a workable status quo. "You be a Christian and we'll be Jews. Be nice to us and we will be grateful and assist your communities as we can. With mutual respect everything will be alright. Its all good." This policy has worked fairly well throughout the past 2000 years.

But then comes Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, and other leading authorities who realize that the times have changed and that we need to adapt our thinking. Many of these authorities are convinced that the coming of Melech HaMashiach ben David is is upon us. While this belief is common in Christian circles generation after generation, it is rare in Jewish ones among our leaders. Nonetheless,

On Wednesday afternoon, two of the greatest rabbis of the generation met and discussed how very close the Messiah is, and how Christians and Muslims have an important role to play in that process. 1
Unheard of! Unthinkable! Its one thing for Jews on Social Media to assist non-Jews in understanding Judaism and their historic relationship to it, and where their beliefs violate Torah, but its quite another for someone of Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch and Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky's stature to make such a statement!
Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch,Vice-President of the Rabbinical Court and the Head of the Edah HaChareidis in Jerusalem, paid a rare visit to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at his home in Bnei Barak. They are two of the most prominent Torah figures alive today. Conversations between such great men have enormous significance and the Hebrew-language website Kikar Shabbat recorded the dialogue between these two great rabbis. 1
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon, like Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, is widely considered a leading authority in Heredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish society and the author of numerous widely praised books on Jewish halacha (law). Their judgements carry a lot of weight.
Rabbi Kanievsky said that troubles were to be expected. "It is the days before Messiah," he explained.

Rabbi Sternbuch agreed. "In the End of Days, those who fear God will despair and their hands will loosen from fighting God's war against the sinners, and there will be no one to rely upon except God," he said, adding, "We have to bring the Messiah."

Rabbi Kanievsky answered that the Messiah should be arriving in the very near future. He quoted the Talmud (Megillah 17b) again, saying, "In the year after shmittah the Son of David will come." 1
Both renown rabbis, and many others in the various Orthodox and traditional authorities, are now convinced that the coming of Melech HaMashiach is very very near. Other rabbis and authorities are not so certain. There is also the question of the coming of Mashiach ben Yosef prior to the coming of Mashiach ben David. Will he come first? There are many thus far unanswered questions about the coming reign of the King of Israel.

The focus of this piece is not on such apocalyptic possibilities. Our focus here is what these great Jewish authorities said next!

Rabbi Kanievsky insisted that the Messiah was indeed coming in this year [i.e. 2016-2017]. He opened the Talmud folio (Ketubot 112b) that contained the prediction and began to read out loud to Rabbi Sternbuch.

Rabbi Sternbuch considered this and responded with a different source.

"We have an ancient authenticated hand-written manuscript from the Rambam (a Spanish Torah authority from the twelfth century), in which he says that before the coming of the Messiah, the Christians and the Ishmaelites (Arabs) will come to Israel," he pointed out.

The manuscript the rabbi referred to is a recent version of the Rambam's Mishnah Torah, recently published with restored sections censored by medieval Christian authorities. 1
So, these rabbinic authorities are saying that the Talmud foretold the current influx of Christians into both Israel and as supporters of Judaism. This is truly miraculous.

To what degree will this continuing influx impact Judaism, Israel, and the coming of Melech HaMashiach ben David?

Rabbi Kanievsky continued reading in the Talmud, which described yet another aspect of the days preceding the Messiah.

"In the days to come, all the non-fruit bearing trees in Israel will bear fruit." Rabbi Kanievsky explained, "When the Messiah comes, everyone will repent, and the people that ‘didn't bear fruit' will bear fruit and learn Torah."

Rabbi Kanievsky seemed to be saying that in the Messianic era, Christians and Muslims will be a source of Torah learning – and this phenomenon is appearing as well. Many movements in Christianity are beginning to seek out their roots in Torah and Judaism. 1
Here then is the difficulty. Both Christianity and Islam claim a direct decent from our Patriarchs. Both accept our Torah, although both have radically different interpretations of it. Clearly the rabbis are not recommending the creation of a single religion composed of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, however they do seem to be recommending growing cooperation between the three great religions. How could this benefit Judaism? Reading these words I am reminded of the following prophecy of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

Great atheism is coming to the world as a test from on high. The world's many sins are causing a terrible lack of faith. Happy is the person who stays firm in his faith in these times.

The fact that I am predicting this will not prevent the increase of Godlessness and confusion. Long ago Daniel and others made it known that this would happen in the days before the Mashiach. "Many will purify themselves and be refined, and make themselves shining white. But the wicked will do evil. and only the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10 ).

Knowing that this has already been foreseen, it would seem that it should not be such a great trial for people to remain strong and firm in their faith. But the truth is that even though the prophets made this known long ago, it will still be a great trial. Many will fall by the way , and that is why it is written: "the wicked will do evil."

I am revealing this for the sake of the few pure souls who will remain firm in their faith. They will certainly face great battles even in their own minds. But when they see that this has already been predicted, it will give them greater strength and encouragement.

                       ~ Sichot Haran #35
Looking around the Jewish world today we certainly see many examples of our rabbis and other leaders failing to uphold Torah. Many of the Orthodox reject those who come to them seeking HaShem and thereby causing them to look to the non-Orthodox and being forever rejected as Jews by the Orthodox. Due to their "piety" these rabbis push sincere people away from Torah observance!

Many Jews are so blinded by the New Age interpretations of Kabbalah that they deny the very existence of the Holy One! They conceive of HaShem as an impersonal Star Wars like Force, similar to the Buddhist and Hindu Netti-Netti even though the God of the Bible declares "I Am" in very personal if inconceivable terms.

Many synagogues boast that among their offerings are Yoga classes, White Light Mediations, and creative visualizations. Such practices belong to other religions, not to Judaism.

I have heard a popular rabbi suggest, in the synagogue during services, that the Jewish people should throw the Torah away along with all the other human wrought idols! Others publicly reject the accuracy of the Torah and say its only ancient stories and fairy tales.

We hear disturbing stories of a rabbi drilling a hole in the wall of the mikveh in order to watch women in the sacred bath. We hear of permitted child and spousal abuses in certain Heredi communities. Some stone women for exposing their arms or condemn them for wearing tal is. These are not the norm to be sure, but they are too often heard.

Far too many Jews, from Heredi so-called "True Torah Jews," to Reform Temple deniers, to heretical BuJews, to hyper-exclusionary rabbinic sectarianism, to Jewish supporters of J-Street and the BDS movement, and so on are rejecting the very hope that empowered the Jewish People's survival through the historic persecutions, pogroms, the Shoah, and so many other attempts to destroy our people from the face of the earth. We are so divided! As the Chofetz Chaim warned us:

Our Sages state: "Jerusalem was destroyed only because its inhabitants limited their decisions to the [letter of the] law of Torah" (Bava Metzia 30b). This seems difficult, for Scripture records many sins of which that generation was guilty.

Our discussion sheds light on the matter. Had the people overlooked the wrong caused them, then HaShem would have forgiven them as well. However, they were absolutely unrelenting toward each other, demanding from one another whatever they could possibly extract according to the law -- and Heaven judged them accordingly. 4
The problems within Judaism are endless and the minimal level of Jewish emuna (active faith/trust in HaShem, the God of Israel) should be deeply disturbing. In most cases it does not seem to be. Our people at large seem to be intent on rushing away from the principles of Torah and towards destruction as surely as a moth rushes into the flames.

While Christianity has similar problems, the growing number of Christians who are adapting themselves to Torah observance is historically amazing. When these people gather and exhibit deep and abiding emuna, when they raise their hands in heartfelt prayer, tears flowing from their eyes, for Israel and the Jewish people, we Jews should take notice! In this we are reminded of the words of Paul:

Romans 11:11 I say then, Did they [i.e. the Jews] not stumble that they fall? Let it not be thought! But by their slipping away came salvation to the nations, to provoke them to jealousy.5
It appears to me that this is probably at least part of what these rabbis are talking about. After 2000 years of exile the Jewish people are tired. Our people were invigorated with the rise of the modern Zionist movement in the 1800's. Even those Orthodox Jews who opposed the establishment of the nation prior to Messiah had to realize that the Jews were awakening to the possibility of freedom and independence.

But then came the two world wars and the Shoah We were severely wounded as a people by these horrific events. Where was HaShem? How could He allow such a terrible tragedy to happen to His people? About half of the Jews were slaughtered! Maybe faith in HaShem was just a dream, worse, a lie! These were largely religiously observant Jews. So many of the survivors lost their emuna. We still have no good answer to the question: WHY?

With the re-birth of Israel after "the War to End All Wars" many of the next generation saw a return to emuna, but still the doubts persist. So many Jews today doubt HaShem's existence, let alone His protection of His people. He did not protect our parents and grandparents so why think He will be faithful to us? This is a common sentiment. Many, such as the Reform Movement, reject the concept that we are the chosen people. They view our people are merely a small ethnic group that was lucky enough to survive into modern times. There is no specifically "God of Israel" they say. There is only a universal impersonal Force.

Of course many Jews still maintain the faith of the Patriarchs. Many stand firmly with the Torah as being not only relevant but essential to our continued survival. Many Jews deeply and sincerely believe in the God of Israel and His direct intervention in our lives. But many more do not.

Rabbi Kanievsky seemed to be saying that in the Messianic era, Christians and Muslims will be a source of Torah learning – and this phenomenon is appearing as well. Many movements in Christianity are beginning to seek out their roots in Torah and Judaism. 1

I believe that these esteemed rabbis are saying that the time has come when religious Jews need to work shoulder to shoulder with religious Christians to inspire members of both religions and beyond to seek HaShem and to work for the rectification of our beleaguered planet. From the Muslims we should learn to place HaShem first. He is One. He should be the central focus of our lives as Jews. Their devotion to their belief system should inspire us to reclaim our own. From the Evangelicals and Messianic Christians we should re-learn the power of the love of God and active faith in Him.

As Jews we must stand firmly in our historic faith in HaShem. We must embrace the Torah of HaShem with the understanding that many of these Christians are sincere in their desires to serve the God of Israel and His Elect. We can learn from both religions where we as Jews are going off the rails.

Concerning our doctrinal differences, we must agree to disagree. Mutually respectful conversations and studies are great, but missionizing is destructive of unity. When Mashiach ben Yosef and Melech HaMashiach ben David arrive we all know the Truth. Until then we are ALL acting according to our limited understandings. We must be humble enough to learn and firm enough to stand for the truth as we understand it.

When will Messiah come? I don't know. No one does.

Our sages tell us: If you are working in your garden and hear that the Messiah is in the town square, finish your gardening, then go see him.

We each have our own service to perform. As we do our jobs, the Messiah will do his. Let us work together as the children of God in this splendid Garden of HaShem to heal this broken world. If the Messiah comes in our lifetime we will welcome him together, whoever he is. If he does not, then we will meet him in the Olam Haba, B"H.

Shalom.

Notes
  1. Major Rabbi Predicts Christians Will Be Source of Torah in Coming Days of Messiah -- this piece can also be read here: HERE.
  2. breakingisraelnews.com. This number has probably doubled between 2012 -- -- this piece can also be read here: HERE.
  3. Revelation 2:9, 3:9
  4. Chofetz Chaim, A Lesson a Day, page 73
  5. For more on Romans chapter 11 see my study It is not you that bears the root, the root bears you!

Be the Blessing you were created to be
And
Don't let the perfect defeat the good


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